From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 103, Number 14 - December 7, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sublette land worth $6 million in lease sale
BLM withdraws two parcels for wildlife concerns
by Julia Stuble

The leasing of 200,000 acres of public lands in Wyoming netted the State about $6 million dollars during the Bureau of Land Management’s December oil and gas lease sale. The agency generated just under $12 million dollars from the sale.

Basically, Sublette County paid the state’s way. The total acreage leased locally brought in over $6 million. Two concentrations of parcels in the county, which would essentially add-on to the Pinedale Anticline’s geographical scope, were highlighted prior to the lease sale.

Acreage to the south-east of the Anticline, across U.S. 191 and above the Big Sandy Recreation Area, was leased.

Most of the parcels which were offered north of the Anticline and near Daniel were also sold. However, the Bureau of Land Management did remove two parcels from the auctioneer’s block. Parcels WY -0612-160 and -161 were withdrawn from the sale due to wildlife concerns raised by the protest against these parcels’ sale. These two parcels, near Merna, comprise 4,240 acres.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council (WOC), in a coalition with other groups, decried the agency’s proposed leasing of these parcels which contain critical big game winter range, migration routes and sage grouse habitat.

“We were really concerned with the way the wildlife habitat is being fragmented by development here in the Upper Green,” noted Peter Aengst of The Wilderness Society in a release. “The BLM is reviewing an infill plan for 5-8,000 additional wells in critical winter range on the Pinedale Anticline, new wildcat wells are proposed in important summer habitat in the adjacent Wyoming Range, and now these leases are being offered in migration areas. Where are the animals going to go?”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which has expressed wildlife concerns about the BLM’s leasing and development decisions in the past month, issued its own protest to the BLM about these two parcels. For the Department, the issue at stake was migration routes, especially regarding new information which is not included in the BLM’s 1988 Resource Management Plan.

WOC protested five parcels before the sale. The three which were not withdrawn were tagged by the agency, with the condition that if the State Director grants the protest, the parcels will be pulled and the bidder refunded.

Bob Bennett, the State Director, supports energy development to drive Wyoming’s economy and fuel the nation’s energy needs.

If Bennett does not grant the protest, WOC has the liberty to appeal the decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. In the last year, WOC, in conjunction with other green groups, has seen some success with the IBLA, who has taken the groups’ appeals under consideration and issued stays for BLM-leased acres in the Wyoming Range. The leases which the IBLA has temporarily stayed were protested under similar concerns to those WOC raised for these parcels.

The other three parcels were protested over concerns of developing split-estate parcels without sufficient assurance of compensation to the owners. WOC also argued that the BLM’s use of a nearlytwenty year old Resource Management Plan is an invalid method to evaluate appropriateness for leasing, especially because of current air quality concerns.

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